MILAN — Back in full swing, Salone del Mobile Milano’s 62nd edition will take place April 16 to 21 and expects to welcome about 2,000 exhibitors, in-line with last year, the organization’s president, Maria Porro, told WWD. At the six-day fair, set at the Rho Fiera trade grounds, more than 300,000 visitors are expected from key markets Europe, the U.S., China, as well as Saudi Arabia, India and the far East.
The opening exhibit
According to Porro, the focus will very much be on the 25th anniversary of SaloneSatellite, which was founded by Marva Griffin Wilshire in 1998. SaloneSatellite was one of the first events to propel the work of young designers under a global spotlight. The event rapidly become a prime networking opportunity for talent scouts, businesses and the best of the industry’s up and coming designers. Griffin Wilshire has remained at the helm as curator since its inception, putting forth the work of under-35 creators. Salone organizers will celebrate the anniversary with a large exhibition at Milan’s main museum Triennale Milano, at which designers will present their most recent projects.
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New design routes
Topping 20,000 steps on the fitness tracker is easy at Salone del Mobile, as visitors have traditionally been directed to weave in and out of the endless rows and corners inside Rho Fiera’s massive pavilions. This year, organizers will unveil a fresh layout designed with Lombardini22, a Milan-based studio, which has worked on various green projects, as well as hospitality endeavors, such as the W hotel in Rome and the Mandarin Oriental on Lake Como. Instead of a perfect grid scenario, pavilions will host brands in front-facing format in a more open form in order to improve visibility for visitors.
While the mass market juggernauts are using AI to facilitate swift e-commerce sales, the Italian market right now is more focused on using AI to enhance customer experiences. Late last year, Salone del Mobile announced a collaboration with the Department and School of Design at Milan’s Polytechnic University to set up an artificial intelligence-driven permanent observatory to analyze the Salone del Mobile ecosystem and its impact on the community in terms of sustainability, inclusion, circularity, growth and skills transfer.
The goal for the Permanent Observatory is rendering it a system that readily pinpoints, observes and interprets what is happening in the city during that particular period, as well as to promote actions that will guarantee greater sustainability, inclusion and circularity of the event as a whole. Data was gathered already from the 2023 event. According to organizers, 87 percent of visitors described the Euroluce experience as memorable.
While AI is being used to within the Italian supply chain, to produce prints, for example, the possibilities also remain endless in the realm of interior design. “In this moment, there is open-ended question mark as to how and what this technology will produce and bring to light, in a moment of great opportunity,” added Porro, who is also marketing and communications director of her family’s own upscale furniture company called Porro.
Focus on kitchens and bathrooms
While the Biennale of Light took center stage last year, this year the spotlight will turn to kitchens and bathrooms, highlighted by two major instillations. Within the EuroCucina (kitchen) section, a food design instillations will be the focus, with daily live food deign demonstrations. Within the bathroom or International Bathroom Exhibition section, two instillations will be constructed — one dedicated to promoting water saving, and the other to product design.
In a phase in which the consumer spending slowdown is hitting furniture and decor manufacturers throughout Europe, the contract business is “a hot subject” expected to outpace other segments of the home market, driven in part in the rise of new signature residences in the Middle East in key capitals like Dubai and throughout Saudi Arabia.
Last year, Porro traveled to Shanghai for the Salone del Mobile promotional tour. It remains to be seen if the Salone del Mobile Shanghai format will relaunch in the near term. The last edition, which took place before the COVID-19 pandemic, was envisaged as a showcase for Made in Italy products and the Italian way of living in Shanghai.
The Shanghai edition made its debut in 2016 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center in what unfolded as an exhibition designed to introduce Chinese design curious to the Italian Way of Living.
“We’re in talks but there is no green light yet. There is a strong desire in Shanghai for the fair to return to China. Despite the real estate crisis, business is still going ahead, and there is still interest in pursuing more projects,” she said.
The promotional tour kicked off in the European capitals of Paris, London, Berlin and Copenhagen and will continue over the next two months, with stops in Dallas, New York, Las Vegas and Chicago. Designers Stephen Burks and Michele De Lucchi are among the design ambassadors who will preside at the New York stop. Market watchers await more pointers at the upcoming press conference to be held in mid-February.
Among the macro themes likely to impact exhibitors at the fair this year include the fate of the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation, a new framework being considered by the European Commission aimed at improving EU products’ circularity, energy performance and other environmental sustainability aspects. “If passed, the new law would require a significant investment over the next three years,” Porro said.
There are also consumer spending slowdowns across Europe and China to contend with.
In its most recent report, FederlegnoArredo, the Italian federation of woodworking and furniture industries, said exports of Italian furniture in 2024 should bounce back slightly, despite falling consumer confidence and restrained spending patterns worldwide.
According to its most recent monitor report, the organization expects the value of the wood furnishing supply chain to inch up by 2 percent in 2024, even though jitters regarding the effect a further hike in interest rates to curb inflation may have on the home furnishings industry are forecast to persist after the new year.
The year 2023, however, is expected to close with a steep drop, with the value of the wood furnishing supply chain seen posting a 7 percent decline in terms of revenue, with exports falling 7.2 percent.
Market watchers await more pointers at the upcoming press conference to be held in Milan, Feb. 13 at 11 a.m. CET at the Piccolo Theatre.
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